Why Can't All Animal Shelters Be No Kill Shelters?
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Why Can't All Animal Shelters Be No Kill Shelters?

Why do some animal shelters euthanize pets? Why cant all animal shelters be no kill shelters? Why are pets put to sleep in animal shelters? How come some animal shelters kill pets while others do not? If money were not an issue could animal shelters keep all pets alive? How can we reduce the number of pets that are killed in animal shelters.

Many animal lovers are puzzled that not all animal shelters are no kill. Some people even refuse to donate to shelters where pets are euthanized. What a shame, since without support those poor animals suffer even worse. Let us look at the facts around why not every shelter has the luxury of being a no kill animal shelter.

There are basically two types of animal shelter, no kill, and open admission.

The no kill animal shelters have the option of refusing to accept animals when they are full, or if it is not an animal they are particularly interested in helping. You may note that some no kill shelters focus only on helping highly adoptable animals, while others tend to take only those who are less adoptable the ones that would not get adopted from an open admission shelter and would probably be euthanized. Some no-kill shelters are breed specific or focus on special needs animals, such as senior pets. The majority, however, often focus on taking adoptable pets and trying to rehome them so they can save others.

All shelters have limited capacity, the no kill shelter simply refuses to take in any new animals when they are full. They often have a waiting list for people who wish to surrender their pets. They may have many pets living in foster home situations, but ultimately when they do not have room to accept more pets they do have the option of turning pets away.

Author's cat, adopted as a 1-year old cat from an open admission animal shelter.

The open admission shelters cannot turn away any pet that is brought to them. With limited space, and animals being admitted daily, they are often forced to euthanize some animals every week, or more often.

The United States Human Society has reported that shelters in the USA are forced to euthanize over 4 million pets every year simply due to the fact that more are brought into the shelters than are adopted out. If every shelter in the US were to become a no kill shelter that would mean they would need to have spaces for more than 4 million more animals. This means that each state would have to have housing for more than 90,000 animals than they already do. With most animal shelters only having room for 80-200 pets at a time, this would mean thousands more animal shelters would be needed in each state. Money would be needed, and so forth. Every year another 90,000 shelter spaces would be needed per state. It just is not realistic.

Until people are more responsible as owners, having their pets spayed or neutered, there will continue to be more pets than there are homes for, or spaces in animal shelters. As it is not practical to warehouse an additional 90,000 pets each year, every year. As such shelters are forced to euthanize the excess animals to make way for the flood that come into their care on a weekly basis.

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Comments (9)

Thank you for your wise information on this tender subject. I hate very few things, but I sure hate the thought of animals' lives being cut short. I have thought the shelter director had a great deal to do with a shelter being a NO KILL facility. I learned a lot from your well composed article.

Animal shelter here in my country, I think has less concern or no concern at all for the plenty of animals roaming in the streets and less government agency and personnel pay attention to this problem.

Returning with a well deserved vote up.

Excellent article, voted up. It breaks my heart how some people treat animals and I wish more owners were responsible. There are too many unwanted pets.

Steve Sacchitelli

Most of what you've written in this article, "Factoids", are not facts at all and this is full of misconceptions intentionally put forth by the people who run our "shelters" and kill animals for a living.

The fact is, and this is via studies conducted by the Humane Society of the US, that 23 million homes will get a new pet this year. 3 to 4 million will be killed in 'shelters' this year. Of those 23 million homes, 17 million have not yet decided if they will buy or adopt their pet.

So we need to find 4 million homes to adopt the pets our shelters kill out of 17 million who are going to get a pet but have not yet decided where to get him. There are 4 times more available homes than the number of pets we kill.

It is not unrealistic, it is actually very feasible. No shelter is "forced" to kill anyone and saving all of the healthy, adoptable animals does not mean we have to build shelters to hold another 4 million - it means the shelters have to compete with pet stores and breeders. If they were selling cars and had to empty their car lots to get their bonuses, it would happen in a jiffy.

No-kill shelters are not necessarily limited admission either. There are 21 open admission, No-Kill communities in the U.S. and that number is growing.

These animals die because shelters kill them, not because there is an overpopulation of animals; there isn't.

Maureen Hurly

Please STOP using the word "euthanized"! Euthanasia refers to painlessly ending the suffering of a terminally ill animal (or person). Putting a healthy adoptable animal to death is NOT euthanasia. And some of the methods used by kill shelters to put animals to death, such as the gas chamber and the infamous "heartstick", are anything but humane and in no way meet the definition of euthanasia.

Many shelters have in fact successfully gone no-kill, despite naysayers such as the writer of this article saying it cannot be done, and have not had to limit admissions. They have been aggressive about adoptions and foster care, and getting the animals into the community. Unfortunately a lot of the kill shelters make very little effort in this regard, and some do not even allow adoptions. They kill almost all the animals that rescue groups do not pull from them. Please read books such as Nathan Winograd's "Redemption" for information on how to successfully make an organization no-kill.

Steve in order for Animal shelters to compete with breeders they would have to have purebred, registered animals, to accomodate the people who only want purebreds, this is not going to happen. To compete with pet stores they would have to have only cute puppies, again this is not going to happen. Car dealers do not accept every car that comes on to their lot, they sell many for scrap, which is about the same as shelters euthanizing animals, in other words they get rid of those they know they cannot sell. Car dealers also are in the business of making profit, not taking unwanted pets. Ultimately if we want fewer deaths in shelters 2 things have to change. People have to stop shopping in pet stores, some cities have passed laws against selling puppies and kittens in pet stores. And people must spay or neuter their pets. Common sense tells us that if you have 1 cat and she has 2 litters of 5 kittens a year that is 10 cats that need homes, if everyone lets their cats breed its pretty easy to do the math and discover that people who want cats already have them, and soon you have way more cats than there are homes for.

Maureen where I live those barbaric ways of killing animals are illegal. I have never heard of a legit shelter that does not allow adoptions. If you are talking about PETA I remind you that PETA is an animal rights group (not animal welfare) and they do not run a shelter as such.

Maureen Hurly

The barbaric methods I am talking about are legal in most US states and in Canada. But my point is, "euthanasia" is the wrong word for killing healthy animals. Sugar coating a word doesn't make the actions any better.

Every day I see posts asking for help for animals on death row in shelters in the US. Often the post states "no adoptions to the public at this facility; rescue groups only". That is what I mean about "shelters" not making enough effort. Have you read any of Nathan Winograd's books? While I don't agree with everything he says, and statistics are certainly open to interpretation and debate, he does have a lot of excellent ideas about how to make progress on the no-kill front.